Episode 2: The Tale of Genji

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A 19th-Century Illustration of The Tale of Genji via Wikimedia Commons

Episode 2: The Tale of Genji—The world’s oldest novel. A hero who is a paragon of beauty with an extreme Oedipus complex.

(CW: sex, rape, incest, pedophilia.)

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Find Out More

Project Gutenberg: The Tale of Genji. The full on-line text of the Arthur Waley translation of The Tale of Genji

Tony’s Reading List. A comparison of different English-language translations of The Tale of Genji


Bargen, Doris G. “Yūgao: A Case of Spirit Possession in The Tale of Genji” in Mosaic, 1986.

Marcus, Marvin. Japanese Literature from Murasaki to Murakami. Association for Asian Studies, 2015.
De Bary, Theodore, et. al, eds. Sources of Japanese Tradition: From Earliest Times to 1600. Columbia, 1964.

7 thoughts on “Episode 2: The Tale of Genji

  1. Debatably minor concern, but the centrality of “mono no aware” to Genji was propounded by (the anti-Buddhist scholar) Motoori Norinaga. I think you may have confused “mono no aware” with the Buddhist term “mujō” (“evanescence”, also “mujō-kan”, meaning “a worldview of evanescence” or “a sense of evanescence”). The Buddhist interpretation of Genji as a moral (or perhaps immoral) tract was something Norinaga was arguing against. English-language texts addressing this are The Cambridge History of Japanese Literature p. 138 (chapter author Satoko Naito), Reading The Tale of Genji: Sources from the First Millennium Kindle loc. 416前後 (chapter author Haruo Shirane), and the Washburn translation (Kindle loc. 209前後). (The Shirane and Washburn ones are in the introductions to their respective books.

    Also, this is not related to the podcast content itself, but rather the resources list, but Gutenberg only has the first nine chapters of the Waley translation. As far as I am aware, the first volume (and only the first volume) of Waley’s translation is in the public domain in the United States because of its publication date.

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